Managing Internal Candidates: The Benefits of Engaging a Search Firm

by Jesse Bryan

Senior Consultant

Posted November 17, 2021

Having internal candidates apply for a higher-level position can be both rewarding and challenging. On the bright side, when the internal candidates are viable, it can help streamline the hiring (and onboarding) process. Selecting an internal candidate for the position can also help boost morale and retention organization-wide as well as show a commitment to internal professional development. At the same time, when internal candidates are not the finalist, it can be tricky to navigate. HBR notes “that internal rejection leads to reduced job satisfaction and reduced commitment to the organization.” It can cause a dip in productivity and negatively impact employee tenure. So, it is important to navigate this delicate situation as best as possible.

Whether or not the internal candidate is qualified for the position, effectively managing their candidacy—and doing so in a way that is well received throughout the organization—is both challenging and critical. Here we share why partnering with an executive search firm is worth considering, especially when there are internal candidates…

Hand holding a scale

Search firms provide a neutral and unbiased perspective.

A search firm helps create a level playing field to assess the qualifications of all candidates—internal and external—without bias or favor. This is critical to ensuring the recruitment process is fair and thorough throughout the entire process. And a strong internal candidate should inherently understand the merit of engaging in a thoughtful process, too, as it ultimately benefits the organization as a whole.

• • • 

Different colored sticky notes with stick figures

Even if your internal candidate is excellent and qualified, widening the pool has additional benefits.

Speaking with external candidates will help you gain market insights around compensation and skill sets, which can in turn help you better shape the role. It also offers an opportunity to build a more diverse pool and can help shape a broader perspective of what your organization needs. Importantly, a robust candidate pool can provide further evidence that the internal candidate is the right person for the job.

• • • 

Woman stands in front of three doors

If an internal candidate is ultimately selected, a search firm can help ensure that decision is made with confidence and support.

A search firm’s involvement in the recruitment process helps members of the organization trust in its effectiveness and the soundness of the final decision. Inherent to a strong search process is the creation of a slate of qualified candidates, both external and at times, internal. It is great news all around when the internal candidate rises to the top and is the finalist. This result furthers both the organization’s and internal candidate’s confidence in each other.

• • • 

Two businesspeople at a table

Conversely, if you ultimately select an external candidate, a search firm can help communicate this decision to the internal candidate.

As mentioned above, rejection may cause internal candidates to disinvest in their current role and the organization. It is important for the person to know the decision was in the organization’s best interests rather than a slight against them. A search firm can help lessen the likelihood of a poor response by serving as a helpful, transparent, and discreet third party.

• • • 

Regardless of the outcome of the search, it is important for the internal candidate to feel valued and respected by the organization – a search firm’s involvement can go a long way towards meeting that important goal.

Explore Related Content

Free Resource

How to Form and Manage an Effective Search Committee

Download Now

Matthew Weber to be New CEO of Development Guild DDI

May 1, 2024

Strategic Advice for Transitioning From For-Profit to Nonprofit Work

April 30, 2024